Jacksonville is one of two regions statewide that grew in GDP in 2009

26 02 2011

A new report from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that economic production in Jacksonville continued to grow in 2009, a recession year in which all other state metro regions but one decreased or remained stagnant.

The region’s gross domestic product increased by 12.73 percent from 2008 to 2009, from $7.175 billion to $8.31 billion. Since 2001, GDP has increased 45.47 percent in Jacksonville. Local per capita production increased too in 2009, rising an average of $3,838 to $41,329 per person.

The lion’s share of production and growth was in the government sector, unsurprising in light of the proximity of Marine bases Camp Lejeune and New River, as well as the president’s Grow the Force Initiative, which brought more than 60,000 troops and family members to eastern North Carolina in 2008 and 2009. That year, government production rose from $5.174 billion to $6.22 billion.

The other North Carolina metro region that saw an increase in GDP was Fayetteville, an area boosted by its proximity to the Fort Bragg Army base.

The president of the Jacksonville-Onslow Chamber of Commerce, Mona Padrick, said that the latest data confirmed that the military made Jacksonville an economic oddity in times of recession.

“The military is our economic engine, so we tend to be insulated from what is going on in the rest of the country,” she said. “I do think that one part of it with the rest of the country being in the dire recession that we’ve been in … we have not gone down like the rest of the country has; we have contracted a lot of companies to come here. Those companies have attracted people from other areas.”

Some of the biggest production boosts in 2009 were in financial activities and real estate, rental and leasing, as well as professional and business services. Construction fell slightly, a precursor to the massive infrastructure buildup that 2010 would bring, with Camp Lejeune spending nearly $2 million a day on vertical growth projects for much of the year.

The veterans service supervisor for the Jacksonville Employment Security Commission, Larry Woods, said getting a civilian job in Jacksonville remained a challenge, but the ongoing work meant there were still jobs to be had on base.

“We don’t necessarily see a lot of expansion of growth in town, per se, but we have a lot of our contractors do work aboard the base, and we have a lot of jobs there,” he said.

The wave of growth has kept the region several percentage points below the state in terms of unemployment, and experts said Thursday that the area has not crested that wave yet.

The nation is now beginning to emerge from its recession, said David Wilmoth, division chair for Social and Behavioral Sciences and economics instructor for Coastal Carolina Community College.

“I think if anything our economic is going to continue to grow,” he said. “And as baby boomers continue to retire, I think you’re going to see more people move to the coast, ands that’s going to be a trend you’re going to see for the next decade.”

Though military presence may decrease in this area following a downsizing of the Corps predicted by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the effects of that will likely be limited, Padrick said.

“Because we have a large military contingency here, we will likely be affected in some way,” she said. “As always, this is a military community that is very flexible, and has always dealt with deployments, sometimes more going out than others. And the business community has always reacted very well to that, and to riding those economic waves as they ebb and flow.”

Woods agreed.

“We might see a decrease in Marines,” he said. “… But as long as the community and Camp Lejeune, New River and Cherry Point enjoy the relationships we have built over the years, I think we’ll see a relatively stable environment.”

Source: EncToday.com

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